Rats and Anthrax

One of my closest friends asked me why in the world I am engaging in the blogosphere.  His point was that I tend to be rather minimalist when it comes to social media.  Yes, I do have a Facebook account, but for the most part I check it about once a month.  I guess I just have a general tendency to dismiss the latest fads in social media.

My counterargument was that he has me wrong.  I have been focused, almost exclusively, on completing a Masters in Addictions Studies.  I have not had the time to play around on Facebook, write a blog, or keep up with the latest tweets. It’s not that I didn’t care- I’ve simply had other priorities.

I’ve been a counselor since 2006, and came up the “hard way”.  For the first two years of my career, all I had was a high school diploma (the fact that we allow substance abuse professionals to practice with no college whatsoever will have to be a topic of discussion later on in this blog).  I did not complete my BA  in Psychology until 2013, just prior to my 50th birthday.  Within a few months of practice with my new degree, it became very clear to me that a bachelor’s level education just wasn’t going to cut it, either.

I took my studies extremely seriously.  So seriously, in fact, that one of the reasons I left my wife is that she wouldn’t let me, well, study.  With a focus of attention and will, the like of which I have never really shown before, I worked and studied my ass off to get this degree.  Yes, I did have something to prove,  and this week I graduated with a 3.909 GPA.  One class, and one class only, prevented me from attaining a perfect 4.0.

That class is Statistics.  Statistics has been the bane of academics, both undergraduate and graduate, for as long as the discipline has existed.  Statistics is the gatekeeper.  You are simply not going to get your degree without passing this course.  By the middle of the course, I was on my way to getting a “D”.  If you know anything about grad school, a grade of “C” will put you on academic probation.  I had to get serious, but I just couldn’t find the inspiration.

And then, in supplemental material outside of our core textbook, our professor introduced us to the famous study conducted by high school student, David Merrell.  In this study, Merrell contrasted the ability of rats to navigate a maze based upon which music they listen to: heavy-metal or classical.  The classical piece selected was Mozart, after careful consideration. As the story goes, Merrell was not familiar with heavy-metal music, so he went to a Kmart, where an employee randomly gave him a CD, Stomp 442 by Anthrax.

Reading about this was interesting, and at first I didn’t think anything of it.  But then further research on my part revealed that he won national honors for this “experiment”, and has been recognized by various government agencies and academic institutions for his work, which revealed the deleterious effects of rock music on the brains of mice navigating mazes.  This is taken by some to indicate that rock in general lowers human IQ. My heart rate was beginning to accelerate a little bit…

Now , let’s keep it real, yo.  Anthrax deserves much respect for being one of the “big four” in Thrash.  However, I personally don’t like them all that much.  In fact, Thrash simply drives me nuts.  Not only does the study assume that Anthrax represents the music as a whole, it assumes that this CD is a fair and unbiased representation of their catalog.  Not true. Stomp 442 is mediocre at best, especially when compared to a much slower, thoughtful, and deliberate CD such as Persistence of Time.


I was outraged.  Imagine Berkeley-liberal, Anne Coulter is delivering the commencement address and Rush Limbaugh is handing out the diplomas ballistic.  I was beyond insulted, especially when engaging in the discussion forums, in which a whole bunch of my peers were basically slagging heavy-metal is music for dumb people.  I even wrote a letter of protest to my instructor, who cautioned me that I was overreacting, and suggested I appreciate the study as an example of how a focused high school student can utilize statistical method.  I didn’t buy it then, and I didn’t buy it now.

The fact that this section of the course was part of an overall curriculum in addictions was too much for me to accept gracefully.  For too many years, in my active addiction, in my recovery, and in my professional life, I have seen people on the margins attacked – viciously, for their cultural identification.  We are supposed to practice awareness of cultural sensitivity and appreciation.  And whether we like it or not, that sensitivity and appreciation extends far beyond race, gender, or even nationality.  We cannot treat someone from a particular cultural identification by demonizing their specific culture. Stereotyping and clumping all metal music like this is defamatory, demeaning, and entirely unscientific!  Am I the only one in academia who sees the flaws in this study?  The selection bias, the confirmation bias, the absolute lack of clinical judgment or integrity.  And yet, Merrell’s high school science project is now part of the accepted canon of academic research.

So: Stoner/Doom Recovery.  This is how I fight back against the smug, arrogant, and condescending attitudes of both the academic environment and the mental health profession towards the people they treat.

And as far as Statistics went?   I continued to study with a steady dose of Kyuss, Om, Black Sabbath, Orange Goblin, Sun 0))), and Celtic Frost. I put on Opeth’s Blackwater Park at full volume just prior to taking my final.  The end result, I got a “B” for the course.   Or, as Jesse Pinkman would put it, “That’s a “B”………………………………..Bitch!”

(Not in reference to my instructor, who was seriously one of the best I’ve ever had)

Anyway, if you think I over-reacted to this, then I have attached a couple of links for you to take a look at.  Over the course of the coming weeks or months, I may be compelled to find and link more…


Schiller Institute

Check it out!   Grrrrr……


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